Sunday, March 18, 2012

Learning from Modern Dance

Modern Dance, begun in the early 20th century, is a dance style that allows for the dancer to express feelings through movement.  It does not have the structure of  traditional ballet dancing and is not limited in its movements. A priest writing for the Catholic Times discusses his congregation's dance academy, and his own attempts to acquire some ease with the dance movements, a new and challenging pursuit for him.

He admits that his interest in the beginning was to lose weight but this quickly changed into wanting to get rid of blocked feelings that had built  up over the years. Classes began with 40 minutes of stretching exercises which he found difficult, using muscles he had never used before. However, at the end of the stretching his body felt so light it seemed that he could fly if he tried. The stress on the body and mind was gone; he was becoming acquainted again with his body in a new way.

Jumping, stretching, moving in circles with the elasticity of the body, he learned the fundamental moves. Moving the lower body and the  upper body, and shortly it seems the body knows what to do on its own. The columnist is reminded again of the truth that there are basic ways of doing practically everything.

The teacher reminds the students often: "Do the movements to the best of your ability." He feels that someday he will be able to give expression to his feelings with the body.

One day the teacher asked the class to use the length and width of the hall and just walk with ease, comfortably and freely. Hearing these words he became perplexed and his body tightened up. He had always wanted to live with internal freedom and with ease, but the words of the teacher made him freeze. There was no textbook, and she was not telling them exactly how to do the walking, leaving it up to the students to do it as best they could. Not knowing what to do, he felt lost.

He looked around to see what the teacher was doing and tried to imitate her movements, drawing a laugh from the teacher. He was looking for the proper moves; how far to bend the knees, what to do with the arms and hands, what should be the proper facial expression, and so forth. Many of us like to believe we have the right answers not only concerning how to move on a dance floor, but concerning most of life's questions.  But the older we get the more likely we are to realize that the correct answers to most of our questions are not always there.

There are times we have to go beyond the proper answers, and look to what is more human and improve the values that we have. The Pharisees and lawyers at the time of Jesus thought that they had the correct answers, and Jesus had the wrong ones, which allowed them to put him to death. The columnist hopes that he will rid himself of the heavy baggage, personality impediments and attitudes, that prevent him from being free and transparent in his life.

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